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Custard the Queen

His majesty the pastry cream

05 April 2022

Custard is made by controlled coagulation of egg yolks at 84°C. Containing no starch, the only ingredient that thickens the cream is the yolks. They begin to coagulate at a temperature of 65°C, but due to the presence of sugar, this temperature is raised to 85°C. 
Above 85°C, the yolks begin to coagulate, separating from the rest of the liquid components, resulting in a grainy effect of the custard. Therefore, the cooking of custard is delicate and must be done while remaining below the critical threshold of 85°C.

Cooking custard can be done in various ways, let's look at the most common ones:

  • Bain marie: this is the most delicate and safest but also the longest cooking process
  • Direct fire: a steel pan is recommended and the flame must be at a minimum;
  • Induction hob: cooking at 83°C is recommended with this cooking method;
  • Microwave: this is the easiest and safest method. Place the cream in the oven for 15-30 seconds, stirring and measuring the temperature at each step until the cooking temperature is reached.

Caution! After baking, the custard should be strained immediately into a fairly large container, covered with cling film and cooled quickly.

Let us now look at the ingredients and their characteristics:

  • Liquids: milk is the main liquid and must be fresh and whole. In addition to or instead of fresh cream, it generates a more structured and creamy custard due to its fat content (35%);
  • Sugar: preferably caster sugar should be used, avoiding icing sugar. Or, raw cane sugar to obtain a custard with a pleasant taste of treacle. Honey can also be used, although it is a liquid sweetener and should be used with creams with milk-cream;
  • Yolk: the more yolk I put in, the thicker the custard will be. The starting percentage is 12-15% of the total ingredients;
  • Salt: use very small amounts to enhance the taste of the ingredients;
  • Flavouring: generally use vanilla pods (1 stick per 1 litre of liquid) or finely grated lemon peel. 

We can flavour our custard with other flavours always based on 1 litre of liquid:

  • coffee beans 150g slightly crushed to infuse in boiling milk for 15 min;
  • chocolate 150g after cooking before cooling down 
  • liqueur 55-60g after cooking during the cooling phase

The custard and three different liquid bases: 
The milk base is very light with a soft density. It is suitable for bavarois, dessert sauces and mousses.
The milk-cream base is more consistent as we have seen above because the amount of fat is increased. It is suitable for tastier bavarois or chocolate-rich creams.
The cream base is very consistent and tasty because of the cream. It is used for fruit or butter creams.



500g fresh whole milk
125g yolk
125g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod
2g lemon peel
1g salt


125g fresh whole milk
125g fresh cream
100g yolk
100g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod
2g lemon peel
1g salt

100% CREAM

500g fresh cream
100g yolk
75g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod
2g lemon peel
1g salt


Heat the liquid together with the vanilla and lemon peel to 85°C. Then beat the egg yolk with the sugar and salt.

When the liquid is hot, pour it into the yolk and cook gently at 84°C. Strain immediately into a container, cover in contact and quickly reduce the temperature.

Store in the fridge for 2-3 days.


Blog by Enrico Gumirato pastry chef and trainer